Monday 14 October 2019

Donohoe challenges the Opposition to 'spell out' cheaper broadband plan

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: PA
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe. Photo: PA
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe demanded Opposition politicians "spell out" how they would provide broadband to rural Ireland more quickly and cheaper than the Government plan.

He has also insisted repeated Fine Gael promises to reduce income tax over the coming weeks can be lived up to, while also rolling out the €3bn National Broadband Plan.

However, Labour leader Brendan Howlin described the agreement reached with the Granahan McCourt consortium as "the worst deal I've ever seen".

"I'm afraid it goes to the heart of politics, trumping the interests of the taxpayers and people," he said.

"Rural Ireland wants broadband but it was clear that this particular tending process collapsed last year when you were left with one tenderer."

Fianna Fáil's public expenditure spokesman Barry Cowen claimed the minister "is taking the people of Ireland for mugs with his insistence that no capital projects will be impacted as a result of the costs of the plan".

He added: "The prudent Fine Gael moniker seems to be a thing of the past."

Broadband is fast becoming the central point of debate for the local elections on May 24.

It was revealed at the weekend that the preferred bidder, Granahan McCourt, is putting only around €200m up front towards the cost of the project. The State has committed to invest €2.97bn.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Mr Donohoe said he was not in a position to reveal the exact figure for how much equity the consortium is putting forward.

He said this would undermine the Government's ability to negotiate contracts with other companies for public-private partnerships.

But the minister said the taxpayer investment "is how we are going to continue the economic development of our country and allow all parts of our country participate in and contribute to economic growth".

On suggestions that future tax cuts are under threat, Mr Donohoe said the Government's spending on day-to-day items was increasing at a rate lower than the economy was growing.

He insisted it would be able to deliver tax reforms alongside big projects.

Mr Donohoe hit out at opponents of the plan, saying if they know how to do it "cheaper and quicker, well I want them to explain how".

But Mr Howlin said people were reaching "a very simple conclusion" that Fine Gael "has now lost any control or understanding of the public finances".

"After the terrible 10 years the people of Ireland endured to get the finances on track again, this is a betrayal of a significant magnitude," he said.

Irish Independent

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